Predators keep playoff hopes alive with win over Avalanche

NASHVILLE -- Buy or sell?

Sports talk radio crackled with the question Tuesday in Nashville when discussing the Predators, who started the night's game with Colorado in 11th place in the Western Conference while having played more games than most of the playoff hopefuls.

If the third period is any guide, Nashville wasn't acting like a team which is pulling the plug on its playoff hopes.

Pumping three goals past Jean-Sebastien Giguere in the final 11 minutes and 37 seconds, the Predators ended a three-game losing streak and leapfrogged into an eighth place tie with a 3-1 verdict over the Avalanche.

David Legwand's 10th goal at 18:46 snapped a tie and Paul Gaustad tacked on an empty net tally at 19:45 for Nashville (15-14-8), which jumped over Columbus and Edmonton to match St. Louis' 38 points. The Blues have three games in hand on the Predators.

"We've only got 11 games left so we need every point we can get," Legwand said. "We've got seven home games left and we've got to win all of them."

Playing with a desperation befitting a team which knows how slender its margin for error is, Nashville squeezed off 18 shots in the third period and finally found a way to beat Giguere, who may have been the best player on the ice most of the night.

Legwand's tie-breaker was a perfect example of the Predators' persistence. Attacking the net, Legwand couldn't beat Giguere on the first shot, but slammed the rebound past him as the audience of 16,211 -- the first non-sellout crowd at Bridgestone Arena in 30 games -- roared.

"You always want to have a crack at it," Legwand said of the Stanley Cup playoffs. "You need the regular season to have a crack at it. Guys are going to keep battling here. There's no give up and quit in here."

Both teams were playing their third game in four nights and it showed at times during a scoreless first 40 minutes.

Nashville generated most of the chances in the first period with an 11-7 advantage in shots, but Colorado suffered a tough break when Jamie McGinn's wrister less than four minutes into the game clanked off the crossbar.

While the Avalanche controlled play for a majority of the second period, the Predators missed a great opportunity during a power play in the last two minutes. Giguere came up with quality saves on blasts from Patric Hornqvist and Shea Weber.

Colorado, which fell to 12-20-4 overall and 2-14-3 on the road, started the scoring when Matt Duchene snapped an 18-footer past Pekka Rinne after splitting two defenders on a breakaway at 1:01 of the third. It was the fifth straight game in which Nashville yielded the first goal.

But Hornqvist supplied the equalizer on a power play at 8:23, poking a rebound through a forest of skates and by Giguere. The goal survived a lengthy video review.

"It was just a matter of continuing to work hard," Hornqvist said. "As long as we did that, I figured we'd score some goals. We kept attacking the net."

"We scored one goal but we didn't go to the net like we needed to do," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "Nashville kept going to the front of the net and that's something we have to do more consistently."

The Predators peppered Giguere with seven shots in the next five minutes, but the veteran goalie stood tall. He denied Chris Mueller and Taylor Beck on point-blank opportunities to keep the game even.

"I thought Giguere was huge for them," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said.

However, Giguere couldn't keep Nashville from winning a game it had to have.

NOTES: Nashville scratched center Mike Fisher (hand) and left wing Gabriel Bourque, its top goal-scorer with 11. Bourque suffered an upper-body injury Monday night in Chicago after a hit by Daniel Carcillo. ... Right wings David Jones (knee) and Chuck Kobasew (back) were scratched for Colorado, while Milan Hejduk (shoulder) and Paul Stastny (foot) remain on injured reserve, putting the Avalanche over 100 man-games lost this year. ... The Predators avoided what would have been their first series sweep at Colorado's hands in the franchise's 15-year history ... Mueller was recalled from Nashville's AHL affiliate in Milwaukee Tuesday because of the injuries to Fisher and Bourque ... Avalanche defenseman Ryan O'Byrne played his 300th NHL match.